[shoulders] SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #134 ---- 8/7/00

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From: lifeunlimited@...
Date: Sun, 6 Aug 2000 21:57:42 +0000
Standing Shoulder To Shoulder With You In The Trenches
As We fight The Good Fight

(A letter of Encouragement to People in 
Vocational and Lay Ministry)

SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #134 ---- 8/7/00

TITLE: "Called To Greatness"

Dear Friend in Ministry:

First, I must say thanks to so many who wrote regarding my Mother's
death.  Your prayers and notes of sympathy and encouragement have helped
buoy us in these crucial days.  Dad and I, along with Jo Ann and the rest
of the family, have certainly grieved over her death, but it has been an
unusual grieving ---- nestled in peace, and with few outward tears.

I've wondered about that.  In such times the enemy accuses us of being
hard or heartless ---- but we know better.  Dad commented to me last week
that we really grieved with tears last November during the first of three
occasions when we thought we would lose her.  

However, watching her deterioration and suffering since then had prepared
us for July 27th, and the tears and emotional upheaval were, to a great
extent, soothed by the awareness of her final release from suffering and
the confident hope we have of reunion in Christ.  Dad feels the Leukemia
was a blessing in disguise, because it released her from definite
suffering from her diabetes, kidney failure, and the cerebral disease,
all of which were both debilitating and ultimately fatal.

I still intend to share some of what God taught me that final night in
the ICU and the next morning about Leukemia in the Church, but today I am
compelled to take a more encouraging and uplifting route ---- also
because of my Mother.

Let me share my heart about being "Called To Greatness".


Have you ever longed to sing your greatest song before a huge audience or
eloquently and persuasively preach your greatest sermon at a gigantic
national conference?  Have you ever wanted to pastor a huge church to
which people flocked to sit under your ministry?  Have you ever wanted to
sit on a board with your peers, having them seek your wise counsel?

Most people in ministry probably have had thoughts like that at one time
or other.  I certainly have.  I can still see myself standing before
thousands, declaring the truth of God's Word, with hundreds bowed,
weeping before Him.  I can still hear myself dramatically hit the high
notes of Malotte's "The Lord's Prayer" with perfect purity and clarity
and people breaking out in applause over the moment.

All this, however, was a far cry from my aspirations prior to my call to
vocational Christian ministry.  Until God called me to serve Him
vocationally during my freshman year in college I was not particularly
motivated or geared toward any significant achievement.  As an only child
living in a home of highly talented parents, I was more drawn to assume I
could never match up, and I could never be great in any particular area. 

For that reason, I had no desire to follow in my Dad's footsteps as a
minister, and I certainly never felt I would ever achieve artistically or
musically the high standard the two of them had set by their own talented

So, I tended to avoid any serious challenge toward achievement of any
kind.  I was pretty content to just live life, enjoy the moment, and not
commit myself to anything that would take me beyond my comfort zone of
mediocre skill.  My academic grades portrayed that false contentment to
just be ordinary ---- average.

Oh, to be sure, I wanted to be like my Dad ---- sometimes.  

Then sometimes I didn't.  During the final year of high school, the
thought of ministry would poke its tiny head into my consciousness, and I
would wonder ---- "Is it possible that someday I might become a minister,
too?"  Most of those times I would conclude that it wasn't likely.  I
wasn't good enough.

When I went away to attend a little junior college in the midwestern
U.S., I arrived on its tree studded campus already petrified over taking
the "Kuter Preference Test" which would help me determine a vocational
field.  Perhaps the first ray of life's motivation broke through the
clouds of slothful satisfaction when I scored over 95 percentile in three
areas of occupation ---- architecture (95), forestry (97) and music (98).


But, then ---- why not?  I've certainly been exposed to it enough, I'd
had music lessons in piano and trumpet, and my family upbringing surely
gave me an appreciation for it.

So, why not?

And, simply because I scored highest there, I became a music student,
with an applied major in voice.

I thought ---- maybe there actually is something I can be good at.  Maybe
I could even be great.  Then, a few months later, God made it crystal
clear that He was calling me into vocational Christian ministry, and
music would be a vital part of it.  The very nature and holiness of the
call and the field led me to conclude that aspiring to greatness was in
itself a sin.  So, aspirations of greatness soon fled my mind.

Today, as I look back at those years, I now understand that deep within
every human soul is a drive toward greatness.  That drive comes from one
of two sources, and can cause us to take one of several avenues to get

One the one hand, the carnal flesh, still being prompted from off stage
by the powers of darkness, continues to respond to Satan's chiding
prodding ---- "Be somebody!  Be somebody on your own!  Be somebody ----
apart from God!  Be your own person!  Be great!  You deserve it!"

On the other, deep within our spirits, the tender voice of our Father God
whispers, "Be somebody!  Come on; be all you can be!  Be what I have
created and called you to be!  Be great!  That will honor Me!"

Sometimes the voices are hard to differentiate.

But the fact remains ---- you and I were both created for greatness.

Did you get that?

You were created for greatness.

Maybe not fame or popularity, or even success by the world's standards
---- but certainly greatness.   You may find that hard to believe about
yourself, but it is true.

Are you aware, friend, that you were created for greatness?  Are you
submitting to that call?  Does it show in your ministry?  Can it be seen
in your family life?

Since that is true, then what is it that sets the stage for greatness?  

It seems to me that there are several elements which I can illustrate in
the following account.  First, . . . .


Her ancestry is sketchy; there are many gaps that have not been filled
in.  However, we know that her father 
was part of the first generation to be born in America from a long line
of Welsh coal miners.  His parents had moved from Wales in the mid 19th
Century, settling in Hawk Run, Pennsylvania.  Their name was Whyle,
sometimes spelled Wiles.

He made his living as his father had in Wales, mining coal.  While we
know nothing more, we do know that as a teenaged boy, he apparently made
a commitment of his Life to Christ in the little Baptist Church there in
Hawk Run.  However, he thereafter showed only minimal evidence of his
faith in Christ.  But, the seed was planted.

Her mother was also part of the first generation to be born in America
from a Russian/Hungarian family who had settled about the same time in
the Phillipsburg area of Pennsylvania.  The name Yevernesky quickly
identified them as being from eastern Europe.

Again, the history is sketchy.  

This much is known, however.  When one of the Czars of Russia was
confronted by his personal priest regarding his immoral lifestyle, the
angry ruler decreed that the priest be banished to Siberia.  While
enroute to that desolate region, he and several others escaped and fled
across the border to Hungary.  There he met and married a Hungarian woman
from the region around Budapest.  They had children, one of whom married
and migrated to America, where they settled in Pennsylvania.

In that coal mining region, one of those children, a daughter Mary, met
and married a Welsh miner named Paul Whyle.  She demonstrated that strong
Hungarian spirit of hard work, stubborn independence, and an "Unsinkable
Molly Brown" attitude of never giving up.

To them were born seven children, the eldest of whom was named Elaine
Katherine, born April 21, 1915.  From her earliest years there was
uncanny evidence of . . . . .


By this I do not mean a heart that Desires greatness, but rather a heart
that has been Developed for greatness.

There is a major difference between the two.

Elaine Katherine Whyle moved with her parents to Gary, IN, on the
southern shores of Lake Michigan sometime around her second birthday in
1917 or 1918.  Shortly after that move she experienced her first of many
serious illnesses, Rheumatic Fever, which left her heart permanently

Her father had taken a job as a merchant marine on the huge ships that
hauled coal and other raw products throughout the great Lakes and the St.
Lawrence Seaway.  He was often gone months at a time.  Even after he
changed jobs to work in the steel mills of Gary, he could not satisfy the
restless in his soul, and he would hop trains as a vagabond, traveling
through the United States and Canada.  His family, not knowing his
whereabouts, would not see him for long periods of time until he would
unexpectedly appear, acting as if nothing had happened.

During those days, Elaine's mother worked at a clothing factory for mere
pennies a day making men's pants.  So, often left alone, she would care
for her siblings not too much younger than she.  Often she was given a
few pennies for a breakfast of bread or donuts which she would buy from
the bakery below their small apartment.

Even as she grew older, the adversities of life never dampened an
unspoken craving she had in her heart for spiritual things.  There was
something inside her that drove her to seek after a God she didn't know
for reasons she didn't understand.  

Even though her parents had some element of spiritual roots, nobody
attended church, and seldom talked of God.  The hunger intensified so
much that while still in elementary school she began attending a small
neighborhood Episcopal church.  She secured a copy of the Book of Common
Prayer and would read from it incessantly.

Every day, as soon as school was out, she would go to the church to pray
and take Communion.  Six days a week she went, and attended faithfully on
Sundays.  Often were the times when she was the only person in the
sanctuary.  The priest would get upset with her because he had to serve
Communion just to her.

The years of the Great Depression caused many people to become cynical,
skeptical, and angry.  Tens of thousands turned their backs on God.  Many
took their own lives.  But she was different.  Even as an adolescent
being raised in a dysfunctional and fractured family, her hunger for God
never faltered.  It was as if God was calling her to Himself, and to

One day, as a fourteen year old teen, a friend was killed in an accident.
She was invited to attend the funeral at a local Baptist Church, where,
for the first time, she heard the Gospel in a way that she understood. 
She immediately knew that receiving Christ was what she had been
searching for.  That year, 1929, she became a believer and follower of

That same year she also met the boy who was later to become her husband. 
She was 14; he was 15.  Though raised in a strong Christian family all
his life, he had been a Christian only three years.  Musically talented,
he was already playing the piano for a men's Bible class in Sunday school
that eventually ran as high as 100 in attendance.

Elaine Katherine would often pester this young man by sitting down on the
piano bench beside him and ask questions and talk.  After he overcame his
shyness around her, they eventually became inseparable.  It wasn't long
until they were ministering together in music.  He played piano, guitar,
and accordion.  She played the mandolin.  They both sang.

With another young man they formed a gospel stringed trio and traveled
throughout northern Indiana and Illinois singing and playing.  They
worked in VBS, Sunday school, and helped start several church missions
over the following years.

Two years following their marriage, a son was born to them.  She had
already experienced two miscarriages by then.  That birth, accompanied by
an inactive thyroid and the inability to purge her body through
perspiration, initiated decades of various serious illnesses, resulting
first in congestive heart failure which almost took her life in her early
sixties, and eventually diabetes with all its ramifications of
neuropathy, progressive blindness, and kidney failure.

Through it all, she never complained, and her hunger for God never
diminished.  She demonstrated faithfully and joyfully the attributes of
the "Proverbs 31 Woman".

Elaine was destined for greatness because God had called her to
greatness, and she had a pure heart that was prepared for greatness.  She
didn't know it, and probably never knew it through her entire lifetime,
but God had given her a Heart for Greatness.

But, she also had . . . .


All the while that alcohol was flowing in the gutters of the streets, Al
Capone and others were robbing banks and murdering people all around
them, and she was developing extraordinary skills in writing,
architecture, and painting, Elaine seemed to have a hunger in her heart
that none of these achievements could satisfy and none of life's
adversities could quench.

She knew there was something more, and, I think, instinctively sensed God
had something far greater for her life, though she didn't know what it

That was to change.

Fame, entertainment, and even her skills with artist's brush or music
score were not what satisfied her hunger.

She hungered things far greater.  Far more important.  Far more valuable.

First, she hungered after God.  She lived and breathed everything there
was about Him.  She craved the relationship with God that Paul described
in Acts 17:28 when he said, "In Him we live, and move, and have our

Next, she hungered for God's Word.  There was never any question about
her use of the Bible.  You would never find dust on hers.  Even in her
old age when she could hardly see, her Bible lay on the table she used
for her closed circuit TV system by which she could read.  Within short
days before her death, she could be seen reading God's Word.  She
hungered for great things ---- like God's Word.

Then, she hungered for God's presence in prayer.  Even when she died
years later, her Book of Common Prayer remained a cherished possession
which she read as you would poetry ---- letting other people's words
express her own thoughts sometimes inexpressible.  She lived a life of

Elaine Katherine also hungered for godly contentment.  She never had a
desire for fame, for wealth, or for things.  Both blessing and adversity
had taught her something very important about life, and about God.  It
was summed up in her favorite verse of scripture in all the Bible ----
Isaiah 26:3.  "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed
on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee."  She knew what Paul knew when he
declared in Phil 4:11---- "I have learned that whatsoever state I am in,
therewith to be content."

While there are many other things for which she hungered, Elaine
hungered, finally, for God's Purpose.  She knew early on in her high
school years that God was calling her to serve Him, and to be a pastor's
wife.  She also knew this young man with whom she had fallen in love was
going to become a pastor.  As far as the record shows, she never wanted
anything else; she could think of nothing more grand that to be the wife
of a pastor.

He did become a pastor, incidentally.  An outstanding one.  Everyplace he
ministered was blessed by God.  Every church he pastored grew spiritually
and numerically.  And, she was there by his side, faithfully doing what
she felt was the greatest thing she could ever do.

Throughout her life, as a teen, as a young woman, as a pastor's wife, a
mother, a grandmother, and a great grandmother, she constantly wanted
God's purpose accomplished, even at her own expense.  Even in her death,
that's what she wanted.  

When she learned she had a terminal illness that would soon deliver her
over to death, she verbally rejected life support that would only extend
but not improve her agonizing condition, she relinquished her
responsibility of trying to be there to love and care for her husband,
and she willingly submitted to God's purpose to take her home.

She spent her entire life hungering for great things ---- and she found
the greatest.

Elaine Katherine (Whyle) Tolliver ---- from a heritage of greatness, with
a heart prepared for greatness, and a hunger for great things ---- for
most of her 85 years of life, and even in her death, demonstrated what a
person of greatness is like.  She moved into the very presence of
Greatness Himself at 4:55 a.m., Thursday, July 27, 2000.

Dad and I watched her go ---- and rejoiced.

As we drove home from the hospital that morning before dawn, he turned to
me and said, "Bob, your Mother was the greatest woman I ever knew."

I agree.

The tragedy is that some six billion people never knew that, and never
benefited from knowing her.  It is their great loss.


If you study history, you will find that, while many became famous (or
notorious), the truly great people of history never sought it.  And yet,
while they were seeking things like purpose, opportunity to serve, and
other things, they achieved greatness.

I think that's because God designed it that way.  After talking about
being salt and light to His disciples, Jesus said in Matthew 5:19,
"whoever keeps and teaches [these commandments] shall be great in the
kingdom of Heaven."  Near the end of His public ministry He again said in
Matthew 20:27, "whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your

For that reason, as we prepared for Mother's coronation service, we
prepared a little special flyer containing Proverbs 31, two of her
favorite hymns ("Blessed Assurance" and "I Love To Tell The Story"), and
a "Thank You" page from her family.  Here's part of what we wrote:

"Thank you for your unconditional love which embraced us under all
circumstances and never lessened even under the most difficult
conditions.  Your entire life consistently demonstrated the love of which
Paul wrote in I Corinthians 13 and which God expressed in His Son, our
Lord Jesus Christ.

"Thank you for your unwavering integrity that set a high standard which
the rest of us have been challenged to desire and achieve.  Throughout
your life there was never a question as to your honesty and purity,
before both God and man.

"Thank you, too, for teaching us about humor.  Whether in adversity or
prosperity, you taught us to enjoy life, and to laugh.  We can still hear
your joy break out in laughter that not only shook your chair, but
shattered the dungeons of despair and gloom.

"Thank you for teaching us how to suffer with Grace.  It is hard to
believe anyone could live in constant pain for more than 60 years without
complaint or bitterness, but you did.  You taught us that suffering is a
part of life which God has allowed to enter our circumstances in order to
draw us closer to Him and to each other.

"Thank you for your unselfish spirit, demonstrated even in your death. 
Willing to give up your own desire to fight death in order to stay with
us, you allowed death to think it had won.  From both your life and your
death, you showed what unselfishness was about.

"Thank you, finally, for the legacy you have left.  Even as we mourn your
death and rejoice in your release from pain and disease, we are yet
discovering more of the legacy you have given us.  It is beyond grasping.

"Thank you, the one we love and miss so deeply!  Much of who we are is
because of who you were."

True greatness is easy to spot ---- look for a person with a grateful
heart who expresses that gratitude through a servant spirit.  

Friend, you, too, have been called to greatness.  Will you answer the

In His Bond of Grace and Mercy,

Bob Tolliver ---- (Rom 1:11-12)
Copyright August, 2000.  All rights reserved.

We would love to hear from you ---- prayer requests, insights, etc.  Feel
free to drop us a note at <lifeunlimited@...>.

If this letter has blessed you and you know of someone else who needs to
be encouraged, feel free to forward it in its entirety to all such people
you know.

If you would like a list of past issues which you could receive upon
request, just let us know.  Write <lifeunlimited@...>.

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                  { (O) (O) }

        Hang in there!   I'm with you!

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